Friday, January 07, 2011

A Barbershop in Lilongwe

In Lilongwe, a short walk from the Lilongwe Hotel (now Sunbird Lilongwe) along the road down towards Old Town lies a small barbershop with 3 chairs. Inside it you always find 3 men plying their trade, 2 indians and a black. They separate the clients accordingly, the indians take care of indian and white, the black of blacks. I assume this has to do with the very different texture of hair. Officially they are open from 8 am to 8 pm but I have often passed by later than that to find them still busy cutting, trimming or shaving and customers still waiting. I am yet to find the place closed on any day of the week.

A couple of years ago when I happened to be in Lilongwe I was not happy with my hair and decided to let them have a go at it. My reasoning was basically that no matter how bad it turned out it would grow again and my regular hairsaloon would sort it out then.

To my slight surprise I was not at all unhappy with the outcome and Mia deemed it "not bad". Given that it cost me around 4 USD I then made it a habit to visit them when in Lilongwe.

When I was later persuaded to grow a beard (or at least something resembling it) I on my next visit asked for a trim and a shave, having watched them doing this on other clients while waiting for my turn. That turned out to be an experience that has made my regular visits become something of a ritual.

Trimming is one thing, it is not complicated with the correct equipment. But the shave around the beard is something else completely.

There is something slightly exciting yet very relaxing in getting the full shaving "mafia style" treatment. You lean back on the headrest, you get thoroughly "creamed" twice with the oldfashioned brush and cream. Then that nastily sharp razor knife is brought out and you really get scraped clean. No matter how well shaven you might think you are you hear and feel how "the shade" disappears. Then creaming once more, shaving again but now in the opposite direction. Following that the part where the tricky-to-get-to parts are shaved (below the nostrils etc) and then wiping the face clean.

Finally you get lotioned with some sort of paste and, the grand finale, some sort of indian face massage. Aaahh.

All this at the total cost of around 8 USD. I have no idea towards what goal in life these young men quietly (they certainly don't say many words) work so hard but I admire them and do not miss out on my visit when I am in Lilongwe. Even when that means waiting in line for up to 1 hour while watching bad indian tv-shows. Let me tell you that "Strictly Come Dancing" indian style is very, very different from other versions I have had to endure.

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